Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lighting of the Graves

I last posted about this two years ago .

This weekend, a beautiful tradition will carry on in the Slidell/Lacombe area. The day after Halloween, All Saints Day, is a day set aside by the locals to clean up the graves of their family members and "visit" with the departed.

From an article in the St. Tammany News Entitled Lacombe man trying to keep La Toussant tradition alive is the story of a seventy-two year old Lacombe man, Matthew Cryer.

Like he’s done since he was 6, Cryer is keeping the tradition of La Toussaint alive. Also known as “Lights of the Dead” or “Lighting of the Graves,” Cryer and about 200 people will help clean graves, light hundreds of candles and spiritually reunite with loved ones who have passed.

The day is similar to Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. And Lacombe is one of the only places in the country where the tradition, started in the 1880s by his Creole ancestors, exists.

“I’ve never missed one, and I don’t intend to start now,” Cryer said, sitting on a wooden chair outside his country home. “It’s our tradition.”

The tradition was launched in the 1880s when Choctaw Indians living in Lacombe lit ritual bonfires every November as beacons to guide ancestor spirits home. The Creole people, descendants of those Indians, eventually adopted the measure.

Now, other areas such as Slidell and Lafitte, and even Covington and Mandeville, perform similar rituals, but nothing like in Lacombe, where generations look forward to it every year, Cryer said. It’s a way of life.

And now he’s afraid it may be dying.

I hope he's wrong. It's quite beautiful.

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